DUBAI: The Pakistan Association Dubai’s (PAD) food distribution drive has reached thousands of low-income communities across the emirates hit hard by the financial fallout of COVID-19-- and especially in the spirit of Ramadan.
Tens of thousands of people of all nationalities have benefitted from the food drive since it began on April 4, Rizwan Fancy, the director for welfare at PAD told Arab News.
“We have assumed that an average family consists of five members so by that calculation, we have reached 50,000 people by distributing 9,127 food packets since the start of the pandemic and during Ramadan,” he said.
Fancy added that in the month of Ramadan alone, the target was to reach 4,000 people.
“We have already exceeded this target and by day 22 of Ramadan (May 15), we had already distributed 4,627 packets and impacted the lives of 25,225 people,” he said.
From the period between April 4 to April 23 when the pandemic hit, PAD had distributed 4,500 packets to families, groups of unpaid staff, blue collar workers and cleaners.
The campaign gained momentum, and the food packages are now distributed across Dubai and its neighboring emirates. The food drive is supported by the community and volunteers who have gone above and beyond to give their services, their contributions and time toward the cause.
“We are overwhelmed with calls every 15 minutes, receiving countless requests for food packages from across all emirates and we are doing our best to reach out to each one of them personally,” he said.
“We have no borders or barriers in this time of need, we do not differentiate between a Pakistani and a non-Pakistani, we ensure the person is needy and is a deserving candidate. Our teams have delivered the essential items in all areas of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, and Khorfakkan,” said Fancy.
Though there is no strict criteria, preference is given to those who are on visit visas and are stranded.
“There are some who haven’t received their salaries, have lost their jobs due to the corona crisis, or were freelancers and have no source of income due to the lockdown so we do take this into account,” he said.
A typical food package weighs 25 kilos and includes flour, rice, milk powder, sugar, black tea, oil, salt, three kinds of lentils, biscuits, dates and instant drinks like Rooh Afza which can suffice from three weeks to a month. Additionally, the teams involved in packing and delivering the food adhere to strict social distancing protocols and maintain high hygiene standards.
“This is the reason why we focus on door to door distributions to avoid gathering; not a single person has come to PAD for collection,” he added.
Even though PAD has not announced its campaign for food packages on social media, it has been receiving requests through Whatsapp groups, Facebook messages and emails.
“We have been inundated with requests from diverse nationalities such as Indians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Bengalis, Kenyans, Nigerians and people from the Levant region,” added Fancy, who is personally monitoring the entire process of the food campaign from packaging to deliveries.
Other than the food package deliveries, PAD hosts an Iftar every day for 2,500 workers at Dubai Investment Park (DIP) in collaboration with MSS group.
“We distribute food packets along with KN95 masks and gloves to the blue collar workers,” he added.
“All this has been possible through the support from the community and the assistance of our passionate volunteers who believe in our mantra of giving,” said Dr. Faisel Ikram, President PAD who is currently volunteering his services at a COVID center in Dubai.
“The local authorities have played a tremendous role in alleviating the fears and concerns of the citizens, the consulate has also played an integral role in providing food packages to the needy within the Pakistani community,” Dr. Ikram said.
The association has also distributed 75 laptops to needy students from the community who are now depending on e-learning.
“There is demand for more which we might fulfill in the second phase,” Fancy said.